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Portland developer to begin work on Lofts at Bates Mill

The Szanton Company, a Portland-based real estate development company, has completed acquisition of 65,000 square feet—about one-and-a half-acres—of Bates Mill No. 2. The company plans to begin construction immediately on 48 apartments overlooking Fountain Park and Riverfront Island.

“We are thrilled to have reached this point,” said Nathan Szanton, president of the company. “It was a very complicated transaction—both the real estate and the financing. We had a huge amount of help from Tom Platz, our seller, from the City of Lewiston, from MaineHousing and from many others involved in the deal. Now we begin to build.”

The project, called The Lofts at Bates Mill, will be the first of its kind in Lewiston. “There is no rental housing like this in Lewiston,” said Szanton. “The apartments will have 13-foot ceilings, exposed wooden carrying beams and oversized windows, but it will also have modern amenities like an elevator, fitness center, community room, wi-fi and separate storage, all included in the rent.”

The 48 apartments will include 15 market-rate units and 33 units set aside for households earning at or below 50 percent of the area median income. Twenty-five one-bedroom units, 16 two-bedroom units and seven three-bedroom units will be offered.

Szanton said that typical profiles of his lower-income tenants are retail clerks, waitresses, health care workers, child care workers and young people recently out of college or vocational school. Profiles of the market-rate tenant are “all over the map,” ranging from bank workers to city employees to middle managers.

The main entrance to The Lofts will be on the east side of the building, at the corner of Canal and Chestnut Streets. The apartments will primarily be on the west side of the building, overlooking Fountain Park, the central courtyard of the Bates Mill Complex. A few of the units will overlook Chestnut Street.

“The addition of housing using a large portion of Mill No. 2 brings us another step closer to our goal of a completely renovated mixed-use Bates Mill Complex,” said Tom Platz, the architect and developer who began redeveloping the mill complex in 2002. “We hope this will serve as an incentive for others to invest in the downtown and waterfront areas of Lewiston and Auburn.” Platz’s firm, Platz Associates, is serving as both architect and construction manager for the project.

Residents will park in either the Chestnut Street or Centreville garages, but will be able to use the parking area by the main entrance for short-term drop-off of groceries and other items. One parking space per unit will be included in the rent, with additional spaces in the garages available for $42 per month.

“We are so glad to see this project get off the ground,” said Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett. “We think it will really add energy to the Bates Mill Complex and all of downtown. It will bring about 100 new residents to the area who will shop in the stores, eat in the restaurants and use banks and other downtown services. It will help create the critical mass needed to fill the rest of the Bates Mill Complex with retail and other uses. The proposed market-rate units will explore what we believe is a strong market for unique rental opportunities in the core of our community.”

Barrett said The Szanton Company has an excellent track record of managing housing. “The city looked very carefully at Mr. Szanton’s properties in Portland and elsewhere before deciding to support this project,” said Barrett. “His properties are well maintained and run. He screens tenants carefully and runs a tight ship. We’re confident he will do likewise here.”

The project will install all-new windows designed to look similar to the building’s original 1854 windows. All window openings currently filled in with cinder block will be re-opened. The historic raised skylights atop the building will be restored, bringing natural light into the fifth-floor corridors. The roof will also sprout solar panels, designed to reduce the project’s carbon footprint.

Szanton plans to display photos throughout the building that depict the Bates Mill Complex when it was in full operation as a textile-making facility. He plans to re-use many historic artifacts still stored in the building or elsewhere in the complex. “We want to create a tangible link between this beautiful building and its historic past,” said Szanton. “We know that the mills built this city, and we want to explain and honor that.”

Szanton recently completed a similar project in Biddeford, called The Mill at Saco Falls. That project converted a historic mill building in the heart of the Saco-Biddeford Mill District into 66 apartments overlooking the falls of the Saco River.

A groundbreaking ceremony for The Lofts at Bates Mill will be held sometime in the next several weeks. A date has not yet been chosen.

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